GoaltendingStill Key Area of Concern for 2017/18 Bruins

Goaltending Still Key Area of Concern For 2017/18 Bruins

Now that the summer of 2017 has come to a close, opening  night of the 2017 NHL season is just around the corner. Free agency is pretty much over. For the Boston Bruins it was ralitively a quiet off season.For the Bruins getting forward David Pastrnak’s contract was the main objective over the summer. Negotiations between the Bruins and management are still going on. On a positive note at least the two sides are still talking..                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Aside from from the Pastrnak deal goaltending is the main concern for this year’s Bruins squad. Eight year veteran Tukka Rask played in  sixty five games last year. Rask posted a 37-20 record and a nifty 2.34 Goals Against Average. Not to mention eight shutouts and five over time games. At thirty years old Rask is ranked number fourteenth overall in the NHL,by Sports Illustrated. Pretty good company to be in.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Since 2012 the Bruins have not won a playoff round. The last goalie to win a Stanley Cup was Tim Thomas. In 2012 the Bruins lost in seven to the Black Hawks.Ever since the Bruins loss to Chicago success has not found Tukka Rask . This past season the Bruins qualified for the playoffs for the first time in five years. Ottawa was the latest culprit to defeat the Bruins in five games last spring.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Rotating goalies could be an option for first year head coach Bruce Cassidy. Cassidy took over for long time coach Claude Julian.Cassidy has backups Anton Khudobin, and Zane McIntyre in the wings.Khudobin was last years backup postiing an 8-6 and a2.35 Goals Against Average. McIntyre played in eight games last year and had no record.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Rest is something the Bruins should consider. At thirty years old Rask still has a lot of playing time left.Khudoin is a dependable backup, with more playing time this could prove  to be a key factor for the Bruins ths season.Counting on Rask to keep the Bruins in games could work against them this year.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The youth movement has been the main subject of conversation this year. With a host of young talent on the roster the Bruins could have one of the youngest rosters in the league. Mixed with  solid veterans such as Zedeno Chara, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, and Patrice Bergeron the Bruins could be the surprise of the league this year.

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2018 NHL Draft: 10 Players To Watch

The 2018 NHL Draft will be a deep one, and is full of impact talent, especially on the blue line.  More than 15 defencemen could hear their names called in the first round at the 2018 draft, compared to 8 in both 2016 and 2015, and just 5 in 2014, which saw a defenceman, Aaron Ekblad go 1st overall.

The consensus top 2 draft eligible prospects are Rasmus Dahlin, a two way defenceman, and Andrei Svechnikov, a big power winger.  After those two, it’s quite close when it comes to the 3rd overall pick, with at least 5 overall picks with a fair chance at being selected there.  All that being said, it’s still very early, and things will change a lot.  At this point last year, Timothy Liljegren was projected to go top 5 at the 2017 draft.  He ended up being selected 17th overall to the Leafs, after mono kept him out for the majority of his draft year.  A prospect’s draft year is what will ultimately decide his final draft decision.  A good draft year can lead to a dramatic rise in draft rankings, while a poor draft year can lead to a large drop.  These 10 players will hope for a good 2017-18 season as they fight to go as high as possible in the draft.

    1. Rasmus Dahlin

LD, 6’2, 181 lbs

Dahlin, who is projected to go 1st overall, is a two way defenceman with enormous offensive upside.  A fantastic skater, Dahlin has drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson.  Dahlin uses his exceptional vision and passing skill to make plays and move the puck up ice.  He can singlehandedly create opportunities, using his skating and hands to get past defenders.  Doesn’t have a cannon, but is shot is hard and accurate.  Great hitter, punishes forwards in open ice.  He’s pretty good in his own end, he will improve in the corners and in front of the net as he gets bigger.  Needs to make the simpler play more often, as he often makes very risky plays that will not work in the NHL, but he has shown coachability, so I have no doubts that he will address that.  A generational talent, looks like a future Norris winner.

    2. Andrei Svechnikov

LHD RW, 6’2, 187 lbs

Svechnikov is a big skilled power forward. He primarily creates opportunities by driving to the net, where he uses his hands to finish. A natural scorer, Svechnikov skates well and has a good shot. His combination of skills will likely lead to extreme NHL success.  Svechnikov will look to add on to a wildly successful USHL season with an equally good year in the OHL.

    3. Adam Boqvist

RD, 5’11, 170 lbs

Adam Boqvist is a highly skilled offensive defenceman. He skates well and has good vision and passing. He scores a lot of goals from the top of the circle after walking in from the blue line. Boqvist is active in the offensive zone, he’s always moving around trying to get open to unleash his shot. The majority of his points come from his shooting and passing, which stands out in a draft class full of dangling defencemen. His style of play should translate well to the NHL.

    4. Filip Zadina

RHD LW, 6’0, 170 lbs

A scorer-playmaker combo, Zadina does a lot of things well. He skates well, has nice hands and a hard, accurate shot. Nice vision, makes good decisions while under pressure. Great passer, passes are hard and on the tape. Overall he’s a great player with no real flaws.  He and Svechnikov are on another level compared to the other forwards in this draft. Really talented player, could be a surprise #1 on draft day.

    5. Quinn Hughes

LD, 5’11, 170 lbs

Quinn Hughes is a two way defenceman that can rush the puck very well. Good skater, he’s fast and good on his edges. Pass first mentality, doesn’t really take a lot of shots, likely because his shot isn’t too good. Slapshot is below average, low power on it. Wrist shot is okay. Can make some nice passes. Good on both sides of the puck. Safe with the puck, doesn’t make high risk plays but still generates offence at a high rate. Impressive player.

    6. Ryan Merkley

RD, 5’11, 179 lbs

An offensive defenceman capable of putting up a lot of points. Good skater, nice shot. Smart player, very patient, waits for space to open up. Good hands, has scored some highlight reel, end to end goals. Good PP QB. Most impressive part of his game for me is his vision, he always knows where everybody is on the ice. Good at disguising his passes. Has struggled with turnovers, largely due to poor decision making. Sometimes takes poor penalties when frustrated. Defence is an issue, needs to improve there. Struggles with consistency. Some concern about how well his game will translate to the NHL, as his end to end attempts won’t work as often in the NHL. Will likely become more of a playmaker, utilizing his vision. A talented player, Merkley has the offensive skill to go high in the draft, but he’ll need to improve his defence, consistency and attitude.

    7.  Joe Veleno

A skilled two way centre, Veleno has elite skill.  A playmaker, he uses his IQ and passing ability to create oppurtunities.  Great skater,  has a smooth skating stride, agile. Good puck skills, can get by players with ease.  Needs to improve his shot, not very powerful at this point.  Game changing skill, 1C potential.

    8. Akil Thomas

RC/W, 5’11, 170 lbs

An offensive centre (that can play some wing) with the skills to take over a game, Akil Thomas has impressed on a terrible Niagara IceDogs team.  He does everything well in the offensive zone.  He skates well, he has a great first step and impressive lateral movement.  He’s an elite playmaker, utilizing his top end vision and hockey IQ.  Good hands and shot.  Needs to improve away from the puck and add strength.  Lots of offensive potential, could be a future top line forward.

    9. Bode Wilde

RD, 6’2, 170 lbs

A big two way defenceman, difference maker on the blue line.  Skates well, transitions are smooth.  Good puck mover.  Big slap shot from the point, a lot of power on it.  Calm with the puck, rarely panics.  Shuts opponents down physically.  Solid two way defenceman with offensive upside, top pairing potential.

    10. Ty Smith

LD, 5’11, 174 lbs

Smart defenceman with skill. Great skater, great hockey sense, great puck mover. Drawn comparisons to Duncan Keith. Very sound defensively, smart in his own end, good positionally and one on one. Solid two way defenceman.

Disappearance Of Three Stores Is An Apt Symbol Of Why There Are Only 7 Canadian Franchises In The NHL

When I lived in Toronto there were three stores that I (and sometimes my parents) would sometimes visit. These were Knob Hill Farms (a grocery chain), Sam The Record Man (title says it all), and Honest Ed’s (Toronto’s greatest discount store). All three are now gone and Toronto (and Canada) is the poorer for it. At all three, tremendous savings could occur. At Knob Hill Farms (owned by Steve Stavro, a future owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs), food was cheap. In its heyday, Sam The Record Man could probably boast that they sold the cheapest records and tapes in the world (that’s right the world. It’s not an exaggeration). And when my mother made her occasional expeditions to Honest Ed’s she would make my father and me who were trying to watch television stop while she pulled out all of her purchases from bags and boast how much money she had saved us.

All three stores are gone now and there are serious economic and social consequences because of it. When the stores existed, what did it mean? It meant a bigger market. Poorer people and those not so well off (though not the very poor) were able to stretch their dollars and get more. By spending less on food, records, and other commodities, it meant that these people could put more of their salaries into the bank and when they had accumulated enough they could even start to buy luxury goods that before had been beyond their grasp. It was a win-win situation. By showing some generosity, these entrepreneurs increased the size of the market and business activity. When one visited their stores, the parking lots and street parking were full and the stores were often jammed to the hilt.

When Stavro became the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, his regime was the only period in the long (50 years and counting) dismal years of bad Toronto Maple Leaf ownership between the horrible Harold Ballard and the even worse Ontario Teachers Pension Fund when the Leafs iced decent teams (the Doug Gilmour-Matts Sundin era) that had a chance to win the Stanley Cup. In other words, which is the point of this article, an NHL owner has to show some generosity in order to ice a winning team. When the Teachers took over from Stavro, they regarded the Leafs as merely an economic investment in which everything had to be squeezed out and nothing put back in. And if you knew some teachers (as I did), all you had to do is listen to them talk to understand why the Leafs were as bad as they were. Somehow they exceeded even the horrible Ballard which I would never have believed possible. In the entire time of the Teachers ownership, there was not one playoff game.

toronto

Which brings this article to the issue of NHL expansion into Canada. At the highest level, you have to show some generosity and give something back. And in too many articles to count that I have written on this blog and others, I have illustrated that all through the NHL expansion years from 1967 to the present day, the Canadian franchise owners in the NHL have shown little or no generosity about putting more franchises in Canada. Only Calgary, Ottawa, and the return of the Winnipeg Jets from Atlanta have not met with any opposition.

Canadians like to believe the myth that American owners led by the Commissioner/President of the NHL are anti-Canadian. The American owners are probably indifferent at worst. If you are going to blame Clarence Campbell, John Ziegler, and Gary Bettman for anything, it is their failure to curb the opposition of Canada’s NHL franchise owners to share the northern market and Canadian television money.

Hamilton

The two current obvious exclusions are Quebec City and Hamilton. Both have fanatical fan bases for hockey and acceptable arenas. Hamilton’s city council was even prepared to spend $50 million to upgrade Copps Coliseum to an acceptable 18,500 seats and luxury boxes if Jim Balsille had managed to bring the Coyotes from Phoenix. Los Angeles and New York in the NHL and other cities in other professional sports leagues have been able set reasonable compensation packages for new teams moving into an existing team’s regional market, but not in ungenerous Canada. No terms for a Hamilton franchise have ever been laid out. So an almost guaranteed money-making franchise, one that has been estimated that could even become the third most valuable NHL franchise, behind only Toronto and the New York Rangers does not exist.

In Quebec City’s instance, the problem is that the NHL does not like the bidder, Pierre Karl Peladeau, a supporter of the provincial separatist party, Parti Quebecois. Separatism is by nature an exclusionary action; in Quebec, based on language and racial descent. When Peladeau lost a bidding war with Geoff Molson to own the Montreal Canadiens, he made a public remark implying that it was inappropriate for Molson to own the Canadiens because he is an Anglophone Quebecer. That remark, plus an attempt to obstruct one of Molson’s business colleagues damned Peladeau in the NHL Board’s eyes and doomed any attempt by Quebecor to bring back the Quebec Nordiques long before a single shovel went into the ground to build the new Videotron arena.

Quebec

Equally unfortunate is that no other acceptable Quebec investors have made any attempt to bring back the Nordiques. And the possibility of retaliation by racists acting through a Parti Quebecois provincial government has stopped any investors from “English Canada” from trying to restart the Quebec NHL franchise. Despite having an acceptable arena that the NHL loves, an increased population of over 800,000, a fanatical local fan base, and a market which stretches half way to Montreal and includes the four Maritime provinces, Quebec City still does not have the Nordiques back. Indeed it is possible to imagine that if there was no racial/political issue involved, Quebec would not have lost its team in the first place and the Videotron would have been built years ago with private funds.

As noted above, if you want your market to increase, if you want to ice a competitive team, you have to show some goodwill and generosity at the highest level. But as noted, stores that practiced that policy in Toronto have disappeared. The market shrinks, there is less money, and new investments and opportunities do not occur. In the case of NHL expansion into Canada, all that is left is for Canadians to believe the myth that the “American” NHL is anti-Canadian.

This is Canada’s 150th birthday and the Centenary of the NHL. Commissioner Gary Bettman could have made it a year to really celebrate in Canada by granting new Quebec and Hamilton franchises. But in ungenerous, elitist, exclusionary Canada, it was not possible.

 

Status Of Hockey In The United States Part 9: Two Current Hot Potato Arena Issues Have To Be Favorably Resolved

It was bad enough that the transfer of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg because no investors wanted them showed the low status of NHL hockey in the United States as compared to the NFL, MLB, and the NBA, but two more problems that will do the same are still on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s plate and have not gone away. Neither the Arizona Coyotes, nor the New York Islanders are set for the long term for where they will play. The Islanders play in the worst arena in the league, the Barclay’s Center where the ice is bad, there is obstructed view seating for hockey, and has the second smallest seating capacity in the NHL.

In Arizona’s case, they have been like a lame-duck franchise from the very beginning, and now nobody in the area wants to spend any more money building new arenas for a franchise that has had only one decent season where they challenged for the Stanley Cup in their entire history. Both Bettman and the Glendale citizens have publicly stated they are finished with each other, Glendale even admitting its preference to have an arena with no tenants that is only 13 years old.

coyotes

Bettman has stated that he wants the Coyotes to continue in Phoenix and a few years ago blocked Jim Balsille’s attempt to move the team to Hamilton. But how much longer can the Coyotes continue in Phoenix? Tempe refused to build an arena that would have been the third smallest in the NHL and the Arizona state legislature is unlikely to spend money on such an undistinguished franchise after the Glendale debacle.

Actually moving the Coyotes to another American city or even using them to solve the Quebec/Hamilton problems would not be that bad a blow. The only sufferers would be local fans who have genuinely embraced the game of hockey. Hockey has never taken off much there and it can be said it was the NHL’s fault for coming there in the first place instead of choosing markets in both the United States and Canada where there were was substantial enthusiasm for the game. Perhaps Phoenix’s best legacy will be inspiring last year’s number one draft choice, Auston Matthews to take up the sport.

But it is still another visual reminder of the NHL’s low status in the United States. It’s a definite blow to getting an American television contract that is the equivalent to what the NFL, NBA, and MLB gets. And it’s another forced move like Atlanta. Nobody except local fans are going to mourn the disappearance of the inglorious Coyotes but the fact they had to leave town says it all. And moving the Coyotes to another city would also mean the loss of another potential $500 million expansion fee.

But much more damaging would be the disappearance of the New York Islanders who are the only American franchise to win four consecutive Stanley Cups and until this year, were tied with Pittsburgh for most Stanley Cup victories by an American expansion team. Moving inglorious teams who have done nothing to distinguish themselves, like Atlanta and Phoenix is one thing, but the disappearance of the Islanders would be a serious loss of face for the NHL.

islanders

Since their golden years, the Islanders have been treated very shabbily. They needed a new and larger arena long ago, but nothing has been done and now the very existence of the team is at stake. The team can only be a lame duck team at best unless a proper arena is built; without a new facility, the Islanders will be unable to afford star players and build contending teams. As time passed the Nassau Coliseum became the second smallest arena in the NHL and the Barclay’s Center is even worse. The team is now like an also-ran compared to the New York Rangers.

Both Quebec and Hartford would take the Islanders in an instant. Quebec once snapped up a large block of Islander tickets and a large contingent of fans attended an Islander game in order to demonstrate to the NHL that they wanted the Nordiques back. And earlier this year, Hartford announced plans to renovate the XL Center with $250 million and the Hartford mayor and the Connecticut state governor sent a letter to the Islanders ownership inviting them to become a renewed Whalers once the renovation was complete.

The disappearance of the Islanders would be a bitter blow to the NHL. It’s hard to claim equality with the other three leagues, to make pretensions that NHL hockey is an “American game”, to hope for a substantial increase in American television revenue if one of your most glorious teams disappears because of indifference. Bettman would smile and put a brave face on it but everyone would know the real meaning if the Islanders disappeared. And of course another potential $500 million expansion fee would go with them.

These are two test cases for the NHL. Nobody questions the status of the NFL, NBA, and MLB in the United States, but the issue is very much alive for the NHL. How they resolve these two potentially damaging issues will say a lot about the status of the NHL in the United States now, and may significantly affect the policy direction of the league for the future.

 

Quebec City Back In The NHL? Follow The Path Of Foley, Thomson, And Chipman

So Quebec City is still stuck at the ownership factor after more than a year. Off and on for this past time, I have been writing about the Quebec situation and its absurdity. How Las Vegas that hardly knows hockey and has never had a major league team in any sport and has a smaller arena can get an NHL franchise easily while fanatical hockey bed Quebec City is still on the outside looking in.

Is the problem the “anti-Canadian” NHL led by insensitive American majority Board members fronted by an American “anti-Canadian Commissioner? Is it the greedy owners of the 7 Canadian franchises who don’t want to share the Canadian market and Canadian television money with Quebec City and can’t be reigned in? Is it NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s “traditional” policy of awarding expansion and relocation teams to strange “non-hockey” American markets in order to impress American television networks to get a better contract while ignoring fanatical markets in Canada and the northwestern United States?

The answer is “no”, especially in the case of Quebec City. Bettman himself is not anti-Canadian though most Canadians like to cling to it for comfort as a Canadian myth. In 2010 he made a tour of the three cities that lost their franchises, laid out terms for readmission, and invited them back if they met those conditions. And when he went to Edmonton to see its new arena for the first time, he was so impressed he wants to give the city an All Star Game and an NHL Draft session. That’s hardly the decisions of an anti-Canadian.

And the NHL loves the new Videotron that Quebec City built. Upon its opening, they awarded Quebec an exhibition game of the World Cup. Montreal, owned by the supposedly “anti-Quebec” Geoff Molson wants to keep playing preseason exhibition games there until Quebec City gets the Nordiques back. It’s obvious that the NHL loves Quebec City, its market and arena. They WANT the Nordiques to return. But they will not tolerate an owner like Pierre Karl Peladeau.

Videotron

Just to recount, Peladeau lost a bidding war to Geoff Molson to own the Montreal Canadiens and then publicly declared that Molson was unsuitable to own the Canadiens because he was an Anglophone Quebecer. Then he obstructed the business dealings of a colleague of Molson’s in some matter. He dabbles in pro-separatist provincial politics. Finally, he is simply untrustworthy; he is absurd. How can he think to get on a Board Of Governors when he publicly insults one of its members with a racist remark, a remark that probably not only offended Molson but many other Board members? Even a separatist cannot trust him because he invested in Canada by buying the Sun Media chain. The NHL wants somebody reliable, somebody they can believe in as an owner, so they are going to stay away from Peladeau.

MolPel

No, if you want an expansion/relocation NHL team, you follow the path of Bill Foley, Dave Thomson, and Mark Chipman who are the latest members of the NHL Board. The NHL is prepared to forgive and overlook a lot of sins if you have a good owner. Just for the record, Foley is the owner of the new Las Vegas Golden Knights, and Thomson and Chipman were the owners who acquired the Atlanta Thrashers and brought Winnipeg back into the NHL. With good owners, Gary Bettman and the NHL Board were even prepared to ignore the small size of the Winnipeg arena.

Ownership is a critical factor along with an arena and fan base. When Thomson and Chipman were lobbying to get Winnipeg its Jets back, they were often seen in the company of Bettman and members of the NHL Board. It helps to be the richest man in Canada like Thomson and be wealthy like Chipman, but both of them went out of their way to make themselves popular with the NHL Board. It was obvious that when Atlanta got into trouble, the Board and Bettman kept Chipman and Thomson in the back of their minds and that made it easy to transfer the team to them and return to Winnipeg after no investor appeared to keep the team in Atlanta. And Chipman is so popular, he (along with Molson) has been elected to the NHL Executive Committee.

Foley is also a popular choice. There were (and still are) doubts about whether Las Vegas has a suitable fan base, but nobody has doubted Bill Foley’s enthusiasm for the NHL. The NHL has been a flop in Phoenix but they are willing to take a chance on another desert team because of Foley. If he makes Vegas a success, look for him to be elected to the Executive Committee at a later date.

In contrast, Peladeau alienated the NHL Board. When the Videotron was being built, Bettman was often seen in the company of the provincial premier, the Montreal mayor, and other important local officials, but not Peladeau. And when any spokesman from the company was called to comment on how things were going, it was former Canadian prime minister, Brian Mulroney. For any new franchise, the NHL Board wants an owner whom they can work with, and trust and believe in.

For now, Quebec City rests in “deferred” suspension, until a suitable owner is found. It’s sad that the best city in North America without an NHL team, a city with a market the NHL believes in, with a new arena that the league (including Geoff Molson) loves, one that had the best rivalry in the NHL with Montreal, has to wait because no acceptable owner has appeared.

 

Status Of Hockey In The United States Part 8: Return Of Winnipeg Was A Clear Marker Of The NHL’s American Status

Here’s a new hockey joke I’ve just invented:

Q. How do you get more Canadian teams in the NHL?

A. Start them in Atlanta.

Twice in NHL history, Atlanta had teams only to see them transferred to Canada because of bad attendance. Calgary and Winnipeg can both show gratitude to Atlanta after the NHL wore out its welcome there. Unfortunately for Canada, it will probably be a long time before the NHL returns to Atlanta. So Quebec Nordiques and Hamilton fans will have get their teams from other sources.

The transfer of the Thrashers to Winnipeg was the lowest blow in NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s plan to improve the status of NHL hockey in the United States and get a better American television contract. First, it was the transfer of a team from a much bigger to a much smaller market. Second, it meant that his campaign to prove to American televison networks that NHL hockey was “an American game”, took a blow. (At a recent summit of NHL, NBA, MLB, and NFL commissioners, Bettman commented that more young Americans were taking up hockey.) Third, it meant that a team was being transferred from a market that counts in American television ratings to a Canadian city where viewers cannot be included. And fourth, it raised questions about the wisdom of placing new NHL franchises in American markets that were unfamiliar with hockey.

And for Bettman to proclaim that the Winnipeg arena, the smallest one in the NHL and built for Winnipeg’s AHL team, the Manitoba Moose was suitable for the NHL was very surprising. But he had no choice. No investor wanted the Thrashers, at least one that would keep them playing in Atlanta. And bringing back the Winnipeg Jets got rid of  one third of his Canadian critics. The pressure group, the “Manitoba Mythbusters” can now say, “Mission accomplished”.

 

winnipeg

But the fact that no American investor wanted the Thrashers and keep them in an American city was a clear sign of the NHL’s low status in the United States. There were no American rival offers to match Winnipeg. Even in potential good American markets like Seattle, Milwaukee, and Portland there was no interest. And in hindsight, when NHL expansion was eventually announced with a $500 million expansion fee, and $10 million “consideration fee”, American investors, including Bill Foley, the new owner of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, passed on a bargain.

On the other hand, Winnipeg had positive assets in its new owners, Dave Thomson and Mark Chipman. Thomson is the richest man in Canada so adding him to the NHL Board was almost a no-brainer. And Mark Chipman has been so popular, he was recently elected to the NHL Executive Committee. Having popular potential owners certainly made the transfer of the Thrashers to Winnipeg easier. Bettman himself and probably the majority of the NHL Board wants Winnipeg, Quebec and Hartford back in the league. He made a tour of all three cities back in 2010 and offered them terms for readmission to the NHL if they met certain conditions. That door still remains open for Quebec and Hartford.

But it’s doubtful that Bettman and the NHL Board wanted Winnipeg back in the league through relocation. The league lost $500 million in a potential expansion fee. And seeing investor indifference in the United States highlighted, reminded everyone, especially American televison networks, about the NHL’s low status in the United States. Winnipeg was used to bail out the NHL in an embarrassing situation. Imagine what would have happened if no one wanted the Thrashers. The league would have been forced to fold the team or own and operate them like they did in Phoenix.

The Atlanta debacle could be matched in Phoenix. The NHL was forced to own and operate the Coyotes for years while they searched for a new owner. They rejected a transfer of the Coyotes to maverick potential owner, Jim Balsille and another Canadian city, Hamilton. But now there is an arena crisis in Phoenix looming and the NHL and Glendale have publicly declared they are finished with one another when either the current lease expires or the Coyotes find a new home, either in the Phoenix area or in another city.

Now knowing that the NHL wants a $500 million expansion fee, will American investors, particularly owners of or builders of new arenas invite the Coyotes to their cities? Acquiring an NHL team through relocation instead of expansion seems to be a big “bargain”. But if no American investor wants the Coyotes, even in another better American market, at the cut-rate price of relocation, it will only serve to remind everyone, just like the Atlanta Thrashers did, that NHL hockey, compared with the NFL, the NBA and MLB, is still not “America’s game”.

 

Status Of Hockey In The United States Part 7: The American Attitude To International Sports

The Americans finally won the gold medal in the World Baseball Classic this year, in fact their first medal ever. Will that change things?

It seems funny to start off an article about hockey by talking about baseball but the World Baseball Classic is an all too accurate symbol about the United States attitude to international hockey, indeed to almost all international sports. It’s either win or have nothing to do with it and belittle it.

American bombast in sports starts the moment the sport is created. The winner of the “World” Series is not the baseball champion of the United States but the “world” champion. So is the champion of the NFL and NBA. And it is the same in the NHL, though with the coming of the Europeans in the 1970s, the term “Stanley Cup Champion” is now more frequently used. In fact NHL hockey is probably the closest “big 4″ sport to being a true world championship because seven of the NHL franchises are based in Canada and the main trophy and several others are Canadian. At least that is better than the one international team in the NBA and MLB and none in the NFL.

Which brings up the subject of the World Baseball Classic. It was started in an attempt to promote the growth of baseball internationally, but it has been decidedly hampered by the bad American attitude toward it. Up to this year, the Americans had never won anything and the excuses made during previous tournaments were that the tournament was a “minor” affair that did not compare with MLB and was not worthy of the United States sending its best players to participate. That was the unofficial excuse Americans clung to for comfort in the face of obvious ignominious failure; America had not bothered to send its best players to a “minor” tournament.

In 2009, American team member Kevin Youkilis publicly berated the American fans for not showing more support for their team. His outburst provoked reactions of violent hatred. America was in the grip of the Mortgage Meltdown and American fans, especially those who were suffering the effects of the Meltdown turned on Youkilis as a representative of a fantasy world of prima donna sports figures that had no contact with the grim reality of the “real world”. Yet their legitimate outbursts still reflected the contempt Americans had for a championship that they did not regard as “big league”.

In fact the results of the World Baseball Classic could be used to question whether MLB itself contained the best baseball players in the world and whether Americans themselves were paying top dollar for a product which, it could now be legitimately argued was inferior to what was being played internationally. No matter. Americans generally ignored the results of the tournament, belittled it, and continued to believe that MLB was the best baseball in the world.

Now contrast that with what happened to Canada in 1972. Before the Canada-USSR tournament, Canada had much the same attitude to international hockey as Americans had to the World Baseball Classic. A group of NHL “goons” it was even speculated, would be good enough to sweep every game against the Soviets.

But the near defeat of Canada’s best players by the USSR and the high standard of play in every game changed everything. Gone forever was the thought that Canada had an overwhelming monopoly of the best players in the world. It was recognized that at least among the “big 7″ hockey countries, Canada had only a narrow margin of superiority. Canada now had things to learn from international competition, particularly the importance of conditioning, that everyone recognized that the USSR had a distinct advantage in the tournament. Canadians became willing to eat a lot of humble pie in order to improve their own game of hockey.

The Canadian attitude toward international tournaments changed too. Now winning the Olympics, the World Championship, the World Junior Championship, and the World Women’s Championship were considered to be great achievements to be valued, not something to be belittled and disparaged. But perhaps the greatest change was that international competition was now considered something special, something higher than even the NHL. The obvious superior play between the USSR and Canada was recognized immediately and Canadians wanted more of it. The Canada-USSR match led directly to the start of the Canada/World Cup and the integration of Europeans into the NHL. The close competition created a new attitude of respect.

But the American attitude to international sports including hockey still has not changed much. They still claim their domestic championships are world championships. I’ve written several articles on this blog and others outlining the NFL’s hatred for foreigners as well their contempt for their own fans by stripping cities of their franchises, often on the mere whim of a prima donna owner. This year NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman showed the American attitude to international hockey clearly by pulling the NHL out of the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea.

And to soothe their own troubled consciences, Americans haul out memories of the 1980 “Miracle On Ice”, one of the few triumphs in hockey the United States has enjoyed. They create myths like the “Bsd News Bears” in baseball and the “Mighty Ducks” in hockey (Who have yet to play a Canadian team. Disney is afraid of losing the Canadian market. Canada always gets defeated off camera by some villainous European team.).

Soccer for the most part has learned to live without the United States and its money. The NHL is in a kind of half way position. What respect there is for international hockey has mostly come from changes in attitude from Canada. But for the most part, the American attitude to international sports hurts the sports Americans claim they want to develop around the world.

This year, South Korea improved its hockey team so that it got promoted to the top level of next year’s World Championships. If they do well, it will be a breakthrough in the development of international hockey. But the NHL has pulled itself out of Pyeongchang, hurting both international hockey and the entry of the NHL into a potential new important market. But no matter, Americans can watch reruns of the Ducks, Bears, and the Miracle On Ice. Myths in international sports are more important to Americans than improving their own game and becoming members of the international sports community.